Virginia launches first US COVID-19-tracking app using Apple-Google API

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Virginia's COVIDWISE contact-tracing app uses the Exposure Notifications API developed by Apple and Google.
Contact-tracing app is now live.
Photo: Virginia Department of Health

Virginia launched its COVIDWISE contact-tracing app Wednesday, becoming the first state to use Apple and Google’s Exposure Notifications API to fight COVID-19.

The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy to anonymously track people’s interactions. Then it notifies users who have likely been exposed to infected individuals so they can take appropriate precautions, such as isolating themselves.

UK flip-flops on Apple and Google’s contact-tracing API, will now use it

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UK's contact-tracing app has been delayed.
Photo: World Health Organization

The U.K. government, which clashed with Apple and Google over its approach to contact tracing, has reportedly done a U-turn and will now adopt the tech giants’ privacy-conscious framework for fighting COVID-19.

The BBC reported the change of heart Thursday, one day after revealing that a former Apple executive, Simon Thompson, has taken charge of the delayed project. Thompson, who works as chief product officer at online retailer Ocado, supervised Apple’s e-commerce efforts a decade ago.

What exactly does coronavirus tracking in iOS 13.5 do? Clearing up the confusion

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Contact tracing could help slow spread of coronavirus.
Photo: World Health Organization

iOS 13.5 dropped Wednesday, introducing a slew of upgrades — including, most notably, the API for Apple’s coronavirus contact-tracing tool, developed in conjunction with Google.

But, despite what you might hear online, this is neither an “app” or an update that means downloaders are being tracked without their knowledge. Let’s correct a few popular misconceptions.

iOS 13.5 golden master means COVID-19 exposure notifications are almost here

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iOS 13.5 golden master is available only to developers.
The iOS 13.5 golden master gives developers an early look at a number of features related to COVID-19.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Starting Monday, iOS 13.5 golden master and the iPad equivalent are available for developers to test. The general public is likely to get access to them in a week or so.

This might be known as the COVID-19 update. It includes a number of new features, almost all focused on the current crisis. That includes the coronavirus contact-tracing tool Apple is developing in cooperation with Google.

Europe doesn’t plan to make contact-tracing apps mandatory for travel

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Don't expect contact tracing apps to become the next passport.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Contact-tracing apps could play a key role in lifting border restrictions after the coronavirus pandemic — but don’t expect them to become a mandatory part of future travel. At least not in Europe.

In a European Commission document seen by Reuters, officials stress that such tools can be extremely useful “on a voluntary basis.” While the report, published Wednesday, doesn’t offer 100% confirmation, it does suggest that fears that contact-tracing apps could become a requirement of regular travel may be overblown.

Governments divided over Apple and Google’s approach to contact tracing

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Plenty of governments are optimistic about contact tracing. But which approach to take?
Photo: World Health Organization

The battle over decentralized versus centralized contact-tracing apps continues to rage. Some public health officials feel forced to adopt Google and Apple’s Exposure Notifications system — even if they don’t necessarily think it’s the right approach, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Others are avoiding the system altogether, despite the fact that its privacy-first approach has been praised by privacy advocates.

Even before its COVID-19 app launches, UK considers switching to Apple’s contact-tracing approach

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Second thoughts on Apple/Google contact tracing by NHS?
Photo: World Health Organization

Great Britain’s National Health Service reportedly asked the developers of its COVID-19 app to investigate switching to Apple and Google’s contact-tracing approach even as its U.K. launch approaches. The move came after widespread concerns over privacy issues and battery life, according to a published report Wednesday.

iOS 13.5 beta simplifies sharing medical ID info with emergency dispatchers

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iOS 13.5 beta 4 makes sharing medical ID a snap.
With iOS 13.5, your iPhone can share medical ID info with emergency dispatchers.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

iPhone and Apple Watch will soon make it easy to share medical ID information during emergency calls. Basic details like allergies and medications can be sent to a dispatcher during the call.

This feature appeared in iOS 13.5 developer beta 4, which debuted on Wednesday.

France threatens Apple in standoff over COVID-19 contract-tracing privacy

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Any of the new iPhones can handle the worst rainstorm.
France plans to go it alone on COVID-19 contact tracing for mobile phones.
Photo: Apple

A French official accused Apple on Tuesday of hampering the effectiveness of the country’s COVID-19 contract-tracing platform by blocking access to data via Bluetooth.

France minister for digital technology Cedric O told BFM Business TV that Apple “could have helped us make the application work even better on the iPhone. They have not wished to do so.”